JOHN WILLIAMS AND WIENER PHILHARMONIKER CREATE MOVIE MAGIC
John Williams in Vienna documents “one of the greatest honours” of composer’s life
“It was honestly one of the best presentations of that March I’ve ever heard”
(John Williams on the Imperial March from Star Wars)
"Like an imperial battle cruiser navigating the cosmos of his creations, the Vienna Phiharmonic visibly and audibly relished this voyage. […] John Williams truly is the god of film music."
Der Standard, Vienna
04 MAY, 2020 (TORONTO) – John Williams has just added to an already incredibly long list of achievements by making his conducting debut with the Wiener Philharmoniker. Their two concerts at Vienna’s Musikverein on 18 and 19 January 2020 – which were also the first performances he had ever conducted in continental Europe – were produced by Deutsche Grammophon in partnership with the Wiener Philharmoniker and ServusTV and filmed by Bernhard Fleischer Moving Images (BFMI). John Williams in Vienna is now set for international release by the Yellow Label on 14 August 2020 and will be available on all relevant physical and digital mediums, including Blu‑ray, CD, vinyl and eVideo, in both stereo and Dolby Atmos surround mixes. The film will be broadcast in Germany, Austria and Switzerland by ServusTV on Whit Monday 1 June 2020 at 10am and 10.15pm.
Before a single note had been played in the Musikverein, Maestro Williams received a standing ovation. The legendary American composer’s movie soundtracks are among the best-loved of all time and have earned countless prestigious awards, including five Oscars, five Emmys, four Golden Globes and twenty-five Grammys. As he thanked the audience for their welcome, however, he told them that the invitation to work with the Wiener Philharmoniker was “one of the greatest honours of my life”.
Williams and the orchestra were joined on stage for much of the first half by Anne-Sophie Mutter. For conductor and violinist this was a marvellous opportunity to continue an artistic partnership formed last year for Deutsche Grammophon’s album Across the Stars, featuring many new adaptations of the composer’s music for violin and orchestra.
“Anne-Sophie Mutter is many things,” Williams said, as he introduced her. “She is one of the world’s greatest violinists; she is a wonderful mother; she brings honour to her country. And in going to Australia, Asia, South America, North America, Europe, she’s indeed a very great world citizen.”
Mutter captivated the Musikverein audience with a series of the virtuosic adaptations written specially for her by Williams, including “Hedwig’s Theme” from the Harry Potter films, “Devil’s Dance” from The Witches of Eastwick and the Theme from Sabrina.
As she said after the first concert, Mutter also took great pleasure in watching the Wiener Philharmoniker bring its inimitable rich sound to some of Williams’ most iconic film themes. “Seeing these seasoned professionals and young members of the orchestra alike joining in such joy in music they have not played often. It’s just wonderful!” Daniel Froschauer, Chairman of the Wiener Philharmoniker, was keen to express the orchestra’s great enthusiasm about the unique opportunity of performing these wonderful compositions under the baton of their creator: “It was a deeply fulfilling artistic exchange.”
John Williams, who celebrated his 88th birthday just a few weeks after the Musikverein concerts, admitted he’d been unsure how the Wiener Philharmoniker would adapt to playing his music. “I couldn’t have been more happily surprised,” he said after their concerts. “I have to compliment the orchestra on their great virtuosity and fantastic ability to perform all styles of music.”
Another happy surprise had come during rehearsals, when the Philharmoniker’s brass players asked him if they could add the “Imperial March” from Star Wars to the programme. Their sensational performance underlined the rapport and affection between orchestra and composer. “It was honestly one of the best presentations of that March I’ve ever heard”, Williams reflected afterwards. “They played it as though they owned it and I felt very grateful to them for giving me a chance to play it at the end of our programme.”